Don't forget coal when you shoot for the stars

THE federal government seems very keen to transition the country out of mining – even if that means going to outer space or underwater to get our minerals.
Don't forget coal when you shoot for the stars Don't forget coal when you shoot for the stars Don't forget coal when you shoot for the stars Don't forget coal when you shoot for the stars Don't forget coal when you shoot for the stars

In the past month there have been announcements about how research will be funded to make mining communities less dependent on resources and how technology can be developed to mine remotely in other planets or under the oceans. 

Hogsback reckons the government might be overlooking the benefits mining delivers on the ground in regional Australia in its efforts to appear overly space age and environmental-friendly.

Federal science minister Karen Andrews said $344,000 would be provided to support two industry-led collaboration projects through National Energy Resources Australia.

The first project will help leverage Australia's capabilities in remote operations, artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation to create markets and build scale between the energy resources sector and emerging global space industry.

The project will power the newly-formed Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth consortium to map Australia's technology capabilities and identify opportunities to position the company as a future hub and exporter of remote operations technology solutions for space.

The second project will accelerate the development and delivery of a world-first augmented machine vision solution, which is capable of revolutionising the way the energy industry inspects and maintains equipment deep underwater.

"It proves that by getting industry to work together we can see our world-leading energy resources sector expand even further and take on new frontiers," Andrews said.

CSIRO claims it will bring expertise across environment, mining technology, systems integration, and data processing and management into the new cooperative research centre on Transformations in Mining Economies.

A $29.5 million funding announcement for the CRC by Andrews is part of a total 10-year investment of $135.4 million to support "the successful transition of mining communities to form sustainable community and development opportunities".

Transformations in Mining Economies CRC CEO Dr Guy Boggs said the centre provided a vision for "sustainable mine closures" and community and regional development opportunities in Australia.

"CRC TiME has the potential to create hundreds of new opportunities and regional jobs through the implementation of restoration activities and increased supply of closure and post closure products and services," he said.

Does Hogsback detect an air of certainty in Boggs' statements that mines are definitely going to close?

Senior scientist Dr Jason Kirby, who leads CSIRO's involvement in the CRC, went even further.

"This effort will support regions to transition to a more prosperous and sustainable post-mining future, acknowledging the need for whole-of-community benefit, including indigenous futures, environmental restoration, and economic outcomes," he said.

Hogsback reckons it is okay to dream big about the future and move with the times, however, the government is getting a bit ahead of itself by funding new industries while neglecting the existing mining communities and operations that need more investment in infrastructure to prolong the productive life of the nation's abundant coal and minerals resources.